Ormondville Rail Preservation Group Inc.
The Endeavour express (1972-1989)
The Bay Express' predecessor was the Endeavour, which was introduced on 6 November 1972 to replace railcars on the line. Like the Bay Express, the Endeavour worked the Wellington-Napier-Wellington route, while another train worked the Napier-Gisborne passenger route in association with the Endeavour.
The Endeavour was distinctive in its early years for its blue and white carriages and buffet car, and also for the name-board "endeavour" that was attached to the front of the loco. Evidently, the Endeavour was the only train in New Zealand at that time to regularly carry such a headboard (Rails, Sept. 1977: 16) The service soon proved more popular than the railcars had been, with more passengers choosing to use it. See the Endeavour service's 1980 brochure.
The following article appeared in the Manawatu Evening Standard on Saturday, 4 November 1972 (p. 15), two days before its inaugural trip:
Endeavour seen drawing people back to trains
The Endeavour express train service, to be inaugurated on the Wellington-Napier run on Monday, should entice more people from the Hawke's Bay area back to railed transport.
Designed on similar lines to the South Island's Southerner express, the Endeavour provides more passenger comfort than the railcar service it replaces, and has buffet car facilities that have not been available on North Island trains since 1917.
The buffet cars were abolished at the end of World War I when passenger numbers prevented the railways from adequately providing an efficient on-board catering service.
The Southerner express became the first New Zealand train to reintroduce the buffet car in December, 1970.
The buffet car service aboard the Endeavour should attract more people back to train travel.
A La Carte
The buffet car provides as a la carte menu. On the north-bound journey morning tea and lunch are served, while on the south-bound leg afternoon tea and diner are offered.
A selection of New Zealand wines, spirits, sherries and beer can be ordered in the smoking compartments.
The service will be welcomed by passengers, who previously had to wait until they reached a station before they could buy food and other refreshments.
The train itself is the result of a remarkable transformation by the New Zealand Railways workshops.
It consists of a Da class diesel-electric locomotive, two smoking cars, two non-smoking cars, a buffet car and a guard's van.
The passenger cars are 1939 stock, but they have been completely refurbished and fitted with wall to wall carpets and armchair-style reclinable seats that can revolve to face the direction of travel.
The buffet car, which seats 20 passengers at a time, is fitted with the latest model bogies to give the smoothest possible ride.
There are 11 men and women in the train's crew: an engine driver and his assistant, a guard, head steward and cook, two hostesses and four buffet car assistants.
With the exception of the driver and his assistant, all the crew wear the new uniforms now becoming familiar on New Zealand Railways prestige services.
The Da locomotive pulling the train is a model familiar throughout the North Island.
Built by General Motors, the 80-ton,1425 horsepower diesel-electric locomotive is more than capable of maintaining scheduled times with a train the size and weight of the Endeavour.
The train seats 136 passengers, with 32 in each of the smoking cars and 36 in the non-smoking cars.
Photo Captions: It was not possible to copy the six photos that featured in the full page article along with the above outline of the service. However, the captions include the following: (a) "Crew members wear different uniforms aboard the Endeavour. Buffet assistant Ruth Genet is wearing a gold blouse with kingfisher blue skirt and jacket. Hostess Cathy Lovegrove has a uniform in transit red with matching hat." (b - of the dining area) "The buffet car seats 20 at a time. An a la carte menu is available for passengers and a selection of New Zealand wines, spirits and beer can be bought." (c) "Passengers are served drinks at their seats by Endeavour hostesses in the smoking cars." (d) "Hostess Lesley Croft arranges drinks for passengers in the smoking car hostess compartment." (e - of the cook using a deep fryer) "Mrss J. Reynolds is responsible for getting the meals ready in the Endeavour's buffet car kitchen." The remaining photo, of the train, was not captioned.
The June 1978 issue of Rails magazine, June 1978 (pp.10-11) provided further information on the development of the service:
Package tours should boost passenger services
New Zealand Railways are currently introducing a series of packaged tours based on rail passenger services. The first such tour, a three-day excursion from Wellington to Napier and back via the Endeavour express, was introduced in April (1978), and next month will see the introduction of a second package tour.
This second tour to be marketed will give Wellington and Auckland people a chance to spend two nights in the Ruapehu area for as little as $32 including train travel to and from National Park.
Such package tours are new to New Zealand Railways, but they have long been a feature of New Zealand Railways Road Services, whose Thrifty Tours are well established. Experience with selling the road tours, plus general market trends reinforced by public inquiries led New Zealand Railways to consider rail-based package tours.
The experience of overseas railways, in particular British Rail, reinforced a growing belief in New Zealand Railways that the package tour idea had potential.
The big attraction was, of course, that the package tour idea would help to fill trains during the quieter off-season period, and accordingly the tours are available only between April and the beginning of December.
Inquiries show that there were real prospects of securing hotel accommodation at concession rates, while of course there was no problem either in finding seats on off-season trains or in pricing the seats at lower than normal fares.
By offering cheaper off-season travel and accommodation, Railways and the hotel interests are recognising the fact that in summer, seats and beds are worth more than in winter, when the demand is lower.
And so the first of the packages was put together, a 'Fun in the Sun' run from Wellington to Napier and back at a price equal to about a 25 percent discount on normal rates.
The purchaser of a 'Fun in the Sun' ticket gets all this for $65.00 - travel on the Endeavour to Napier and back, two nights at the Masonic Establishment hotel on Napier's Marine Parade, taxi rides from the station to the hotel and return, and a free entry to some of the tourist attractions on the Marine Parade.
The aim of this promotion is not to generate huge amounts of traffic which could not be coped with by either the train or the hotel, but rather a steady trickle of travellers who overall, will boost off-season revenue.
The Hawke's Bay holiday scheme has attracted a good deal of attention in the Wellington area - it is not being promoted outside the capital as it is tailored to suit Wellington only.
(The article then goes on to outline the second scheme that was to start the following month involving the Auckland-Wellington rail service, and then describes other similar package tours that could be developed in the future. Wellington was not considered a suitable destination for such schemes, due to the lack of an off-season period for hotel rooms.)
New Zealand Railways are looking at other ways of improving off-season passenger loadings too. A number of possibilities are being investigated, such as the use of trains for education tours for school children, some sort of low-cost stand-by fares, perhaps mid-week concessions for pensioners, and so on.
It is possible too that efforts will be made in future to make the business community more conscious of the possibilities of intercity business trips made by rail.
All these developments are a reminder that far from trying to get out of the long-distance passenger field, New Zealand Railways are in fact working hard to build up rail passenger traffic.
On 19 August 1981, the day after a derailment by the Silver Fern railcar at Waiouru, the original Endeavour train set was switched from the Napier run to take the place of the third Silver Fern on the Auckland-Wellington service. It never returned. Its place on the Napier line was in turn taken by another train using standard carriages. As the same carriages were now in use on both the Wellington-Napier service and the Napier-Gisborne service, the two services were combined, and the two trains worked the whole route each day. Thus one left Wellington at 7:45am and arrived at Gisborne at 6:30pm, while the other left Gisborne at 9:55am and arrived at Wellington at 8:40pm. Refreshment stops were taken at Napier and Palmerston North in both directions (Rails, Dec.,1981: 16-7).
For a time the carriages used on the service consisted of two converted railcars, known as 'Grassgrubs' for their green colour, which were towed behind a loco. However, in the spring of 1984, refurbished carriages, painted blue like those of the Southerner (of the time) and the former Endeavour express, were returned to the service. In 1988, Cyclone Bola put an end to the Napier-Gisborne leg of the passenger service and by the end of the following year, the scene was set for the arrival at the end of the year of the Bay Express.